There’s nothing quite like arriving into Skegness on a dark Friday evening in January… but, as members of the band arrived, along with hundreds of other brass banders, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation at the annual gathering of the Butlin’s Mineworkers Brass Band Festival.
After locating the apartment amongst the maze of apartments that all looked alike, the night began, and ended, with some serious dancing to 80’s covers in the main venue – Centre Stage. As a relative newcomer to the band, this was the perfect way to get to know one another to the backdrop of Footloose. Several rounds of toast got everyone going the following morning and we were up and ready to see our MD Ben, and repiano cornet Becca play with 3rd Section Band, Ammington.
Staying to listen to some of the bands that followed demonstrated the interpretation of the test piece and the different strengths of each band.
Saturday afternoon was filled with amazing music as the Butlin’s Mineworkers Championship Section Contest got underway. We all listened with delight as technical and musical ability were demonstrated by the top-class bands. A varied choice of test pieces, both contemporary and more traditional kept all the audience in the packed Centre Stage hooked. Upon leaving the venue for the evening, we were all filled with excitement and motivation for improving our own playing and the overall standard of City of Birmingham Brass Band. Once some shared chilli had been devoured the evening was spent together playing card games and charades – some members of the band were certainly better than others but that might have had something to do with the alcohol consumed!
Sunday came around and it was time to head off to see the Entertainment Contest. These mini concerts from the Championship Bands were filled with skilful solos, varied programmes and musical chairs. The more relaxed performances on the final day of the Butlin’s Brass Band Festival reminded us that playing with a brass band is all about making a great noise and having fun whilst doing it. Overall, a fantastic weekend with great company and a wealth of wonderful music.
Amidst a refreshing flurry of powdery snow, the CBBB held its annual Christmas Concert at Joseph Chamberlain College. Although the snow hampered travel to the College for some, audience attendance was high and good spirits abounded. The hall had a number of festively-decorated tables set up, and cheerfully dressed audience members took their places before the band played a number of holiday favorites. One of the band’s featured soloists was trombonist Iain Jackson with his arrangement of Santa Baby, where he skillfully demonstrated both jazzy improvisation and the bass trombone’s deep lower register. Jordann Brionne, euphonium soloist for The Cavalier, displayed nimble musical ability as he made his euphonium sing through numerous melodic passages.
The band also gave the world premiere of MD Ben Hewlett-Davies’ new composition, The Steel Pressers, a march dedicated to the City of Birmingham’s industrial past. Other band and audience favorites included We Wish You a Merry Christmas, the upbeat Christmas Festival, the soulful and wintery Snowman, and the rousing Bavarian Christmas song, Schneewalzer. A good time was had by audience and band members, and a number of refreshments, including lovely hot drinks and delicious baked goods, were served during the interval. It was a grand holiday concert and generated delightful Christmas cheer for all. Kerstin Becker
It was a very cold afternoon when the Band arrived in Stratford, but a meet up for cake and tea before playing gave all the players a chance to warm up and get into the Christmas spirit comparing this year’s selection of Christmas jumpers.The band were set up in Bells Court, a lovely modern, outdoor area in the centre of Stratford, surrounded by several eateries. It was already dark when they started their set at 4.30pm all huddled under the lights of the Everyman Theatre.
After setting the scene with a small selection of favourite Christmas tunes, Santa arrived on the balcony to wish the bystanders a Merry Christmas and announce the turning on of the Christmas Tree lights, before covering the band in a dusting of snow! There was a great turn out from the public who enjoyed meeting Santa and two of his reindeer, and a Christmas dance performance put on by a young dance group. The band’s mixture of traditional carols and modern favourites entertained the local families and they even had a young guest conductor to complete their visit to Stratford. A great gig to be a part of, organised by some lovely people – Sarah Timms
The Band has had the honour of providing music for this annual service of remembrance for a number of years now. This year’s service, held at the church of St. Martin’s in The Bullring, was well attended and a moving tribute to those who lost their lives in the bombing raids over the city during World War II.
Before the service the band performed music reminiscent of the era, including Bless ‘Em All and the theme from We’ll Meet Again. During the service Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma Variations and John Williams’ Hymn To The Fallen were featured and the band played out the congregation after the service with High on The Hill.
CBBB has held a ‘Last Night of the Proms concert at Joseph Chamberlain College for several years now, but this one was certainly our most exciting yet! This year, we teamed up with Handsworth Community Choir to deliver a shared programme with a Round the World theme, followed by a traditional Proms finale.
We were also lucky enough to have children from the One Handed Musical Instrument Trust as guest stars! In case all this wasn’t exciting enough, the concert also included the premiere of ‘One With You’, a hauntingly beautiful piece written and composed by our bass trombonist Iain Jackson, and a brilliant performance of ‘National Express’ by Divine Comedy, which was specially arranged for the concert by MD Ben Hewlett-Davies.
Although the weather was not on our side, this was our best attended and most unique Proms concert to date; in fact we nearly couldn’t fit all the audience and their picnics into the hall! We are extremely grateful to Handsworth Community Choir and OHMI for helping us create such a wonderful showcase of community music making in Birmingham, and are really hoping we can help these connections grow in the coming years to keep making our concerts even more varied and interesting!
This was the 2nd year that The City of Birmingham Brass Band have appeared at the Ironbridge Gorge Festival and a good time was had by all involved. The band played a selection of tunes including the popular march Castell Coch and hits from the shows in Memory, Oliver! and Breezin’ Down Broadway. It was breezy all round in fact as at one point our principal cornet player’s music blew completely off the stand and was caught by a quick thinking member of the audience!
The featured soloist of the day was Naomi Stephenson, our principal Euphonium player, who gave a sensitive account of the beautiful Welsh melody Myfanwy. A rousing finale to the band’s appearance was guaranteed with the classic Dam Busters March by Eric Coates.